Climate change to increase heatwave and food poisoning risks

Heatwaves, food poisoning, skin cancer and insect-borne disease are the greatest health threats likely to increase due to climate change, a report from the Health Protection Agency has concluded

The report was written for the agency by an expert panel and takes into account the latest information and current predictions about climate change in the UK.

It suggests the following consequences are “possible” if no action is taken:

  • By 2012 there will be a 1-in-40 chance that the south-east of England will experience a heatwave causing 3,000 immediate heat-related deaths.
  • Up to 14,000 more case of food poisoning may occur each year
  • Increased exposure to sunlight will lead to a rise in skin cancers
  • Malaria could return to the south of England although outbreaks are likely to be rare and affect few people
  • The number of people at high risk from flooding could increase from 1,500 to 3,500 by 2100
  • Winter deaths due to cold are likely to decline as temperatures rise
  • The National Health Service will need to adapt hospitals, nursing homes and other infrastructure to be more resilient to the effects of heat, gales and floods, the agency says.

    Professor Robert Maynard, who chaired the expert panel at the HPA said, “It is important that we assess the possible health impact of climate change and take any actions that could minimise the consequences.”

    The report is to submitted to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution’s current inquiry on adaptation to climate change.

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